‘BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE’ Review: A Giant Mess Made by a Giant Idiot

This isn’t quite a review. It’s something more. And it includes heavy, nearly beat-by-beat spoilers, so it may not even make sense to you if you haven’t seen it.

Here’s a little running diary I made during my first watch of this film. In the interest of fairness, I will point out things I like just as much as I will things I don’t like.

SPOILERS: Full spoilers ahead, scene by scene.

MORE SPOILERS: I hated most of this movie, but when it focuses, it ends up being decent enough. I’m going to break this into sections, so every so often I’ll break off the bullet points and try to organize my thoughts.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a mass murderer!
  • We open with the Mark of Zorro! Actual Batman stuff!
  • The combined slow-motion shot of young Bruce falling and Martha being killed is hilariously dumb, but exciting and bracing in a way Snyder only achieves when he’s working purely visually.
  • Being carried out of a well by bats is exactly the sort of dream Batman would have, at least.
  • A nice establishing bit of Bruce driving the Product Placement Mobile through Metropolis as it’s being destroyed.
  • A little awkward that Batman is just casually saving as many people as possible as the city falls apart while Superman just as casually destroys it, right? God, Zack Snyder hates Superman.
  • So then we catch up with Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen on assignment with an African warlord. Jimmy is promptly shot in the head. Fuck this movie.
  • “The woman I love could have been blown up or shot,” Clark Kent says, in defense of something that he did in Africa that the movie couldn’t be bothered to show us. Think about that line for a second. Blown up! Or shot! The woman I love could have been killed or even wounded!
  • I mean, come on, movie. People dying while Superman is around isn’t bad, but his callousness about it is. The Superman I know would be beating himself up about every casualty. Every single one. He wouldn’t be distracting Lois from asking tough questions by seducing her (well, he’d do that too).
  • “We’re criminals, Alfred.” What’s “things Batman would never ever fucking say for $1,000, Alex?”
  • I am 23 minutes into this movie, and our act transition (if there even is such a thing), is Clark Kent wordlessly watching news reports about people with Batman brands being killed in prison followed by Lex Luthor shooting a basketball. The editing here is completely insane.
  • We get some actual exposition finally, even if it’s just about what Kryptonite is and how they found it (with a neat cameo from what appears to be a wax model of Michael Shannon).
  • “Kent, you’re on sports. I want you to follow up on the football,” says Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White, sounding like someone in a commercial that doesn’t have the rights to say “Super Bowl.”
  • Then we get a mishmash of a scene where Lex Luthor feeds people candy and starts to work on his anti-Superman weaponry. This scene *seems* like it’s going to last for several minutes until it just sort of ends for no reason.
Lex Luthor, seen here practicing his shitty Joker cosplay.

Fishburne is fun, at least. He and Lois seem to be the only characters this movie thinks can have any fun. I suppose Jesse Eisenberg’s Luthor has fun, but that’s like his only mode. He doesn’t even warm up to being crazy, he just starts being crazy as soon as his scenes start, and he just continues at that pitch. It’s not exciting or interesting. He just says zany things all the time and everyone else in the movie hates him. Alright, let’s continue.

  • Is this Bruce Wayne an alcoholic? Why? Alcohol won’t solve his problems, and it sure as hell won’t make him a better Batman. Not drinking is fundamental thing about the character, discarded for a throwaway joke.
  • Bruce Wayne’s been invited to Lex Luthor’s house, which is the perfect opportunity for him to stare at the Batsuit and at Jason Todd’s Robin suit for the audience’s benefit. Cool shots, though.
  • I said that I’d point out things I like, and I really liked the idea of Alfred leading Bruce through Luthor’s house via communicator, and the idea of Clark Kent hearing their conversation and following.
  • Also, Ben Affleck is very good at playing Bruce’s doofy rich boy cover. At least as good as Bale was, but without thinking that’s all that Bruce Wayne is.
  • Luthor’s first scene where he doesn’t talk entirely in metaphor is when he introduces Bruce and Clark. I think it’s because this is the first time he has explicitly talked *to* another character and not just said zany things as people float around him and make confused faces.
  • Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman shows up here too, though she didn’t do anything other than look gorgeous and shoot sultry looks at Ben Affleck. There are worse performances in this movie.
  • The montage of Superman saving people with pundits debating the philosophical implications of his existence is really good. Sort of sad that Neil deGrasse Tyson seems to understand Superman more than Zack Snyder does, though.
Superman is too busy looking at a cool explosion he caused to care about these people.

The movie’s pacing is a lot better here, so let me talk a bit about something I hate. Bruce gets back the drive Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) stole from him at Luthor’s party. He launches a decryption program, and waits. Comic book (or even animated Batman) doesn’t have a decryption program that he bought, or makes Alfred run that software. He does it himself. It probably takes him hours, but he’s just clever enough to do it. Live-action Batman always takes these shortcuts. He doesn’t invent anything — Lucius Fox does. He doesn’t fix his gadgets — Alfred does. He’s not a master of martial arts — he just punches people real hard. That’s why people who’ve only seen Batman films call him privileged, when in reality, Comic Batman is the hardest working, toughest, most maniacally determined character in the world.

  • I don’t know why Bruce’s post-apocalyptic dream is so accurate with its depictions of Parademons, or why he’s using guns, but it’s pretty cool, I suppose. Again, he’s the only character whose motivations to this point make sense. He’s afraid of Superman.
  • Hey, it’s the Flash bringing a warning from the future! Hey, it’s not Grant Gustin! Too much to ask for Snyder’s grimdark vision, I suppose.
  • “Twenty years in Gotham, Alfred. We’ve seen what promises are worth.” Affleck is really good.
  • Alright, Batman is absolutely killing people now. If he’s supposed to have been street-level his entire career, it makes a sort of sense.
  • If Zack Snyder is basing this interpretation off of The Dark Knight Returns, though, it makes no sense at all, considering Batman states several times in that book that he’s using rubber bullets.
  • This is the best Batmobile, though. Even if he just ran over some poor mook’s head with it. I don’t know, I have a lot of problems with Batman just casually and willfully killing people, but this was a fun scene. It was fun to watch. I’m taking what I can get here.
  • This really is like three movies packed into one. I can’t believe I’m only halfway through.
  • Superman gets threatened by Holly Hunter, reprimanded by his mother, and framed by LexCorp in the span of like 90 seconds.
  • Holly Hunter is very good in this movie, and her fear and confusion as she realizes Lex is going to assassinate her is great. Now here’s a scene of rampant destruction that actually means something! And hey, Superman is upset about it. This is progress!
  • Next we see Luthor using Zod’s severed fingertips to get into the crashed Kryptonian ship. You figure he might have bothered to do this *before* he blew up the Capitol, but whatever.
  • Then we see a hilarious montage of Bruce Wayne strength training (to fight Superman?!?), interspersed with he and Alfred apparently synthesizing Kryptonite. Did he break into Luthor’s lab and steal it? If not, could he have done this at any point, and killing all of Luthor’s goons was just for fun? Come on movie, at least try to make sense.
  • Then he just randomly starts investigating Wonder Woman, culminating in what I assume is a shot from her solo film. Hey, Chris Pine!
  • Kevin Costner was one of the best parts of Man of Steel, so it’s good to see him, even if only in dream form. That said, his entire role here is to teach Clark that doing the right thing can have consequences, which you think he might have learned when he and Zod DESTROYED METROPOLIS.
Nothing about this makes any sense.

We’re at the point of the movie where our “heroes” saunter around sadly as their father figures lecture them, so it’s a nice time to state that, while there’s a lot being said about how dour Batfleck is (and he really is), the one thing he completely and totally nails about Batman is the seething rage he carries around with him all the time. He’s just perpetually pissed off, and that’s the sort of mindset a man would need to push himself to be something like Batman.

  • We had Diane Lane reintroduced as Martha Kent solely to have her be kidnapped here, and it’s still meaningless. What a farce this is.
  • The armored Batsuit and the Bat-signal are glorious looking.
  • KGBeast being Luthor’s main henchman is a little weird, but he’s a very distinctive guy. Here’s hoping Batfleck leaves him for dead in the sewer sometime.
  • Lex quoting the Problem of Evil and telling Superman that the people need “to see the fraud you are” sounds an awful lot like the Lex Luthor I know. Pity it took this long to get here.
  • “Son of Krypton vs Bat of Gotham,” a line so stupid that just thinking about it makes me sad. “Mother of God, would you look at the time!”
  • Once this movie actually started focusing on Luthor’s plan, it became thoroughly watchable.
  • This fight is slower-paced than I assumed, and Batman whipping Superman’s ass after a Kryptonite grenade is a wonderful Dark Knight Returns callout.
  • Then again, this is Zack Snyder’s Superman. So instead of trying to disarm Bruce and keep everyone safe, he charges straight ahead and gets hit with a Kryptonite grenade a second time. Like an idiot.
  • “My parents taught me a different lesson, dying in the gutter for no reason at all. They taught me the world only makes sense if you force it to.” As confusing and infuriating as this movie is, we did get maybe the most Batman line ever out of it.
  • “Wait, maybe Superman is good because our mothers had the same name?” Just when I compliment this movie, it has to be this stupid. I suppose it does make sense for Batman to see reason when he sees a bit of vulnerability in Superman, but I don’t know if this movie understands even that most basic level of nuance.
  • I’m not even sure if Batman’s guns actually kill people or if they just make cars explode… alright, Batman just absolutely wrecking a warehouse full of goons was pretty great, and a lot more kinetic than any other Batman fight scenes put to film have been. Amazing what having an actual tall person in a Batman suit does for his look.
  • I still don’t think Snyder understood anything about Dark Knight Returns other than having Batman burst through a wall behind someone is incredibly rad. Which, to be fair, it absolutely is.
  • As relatively fun as seeing the last half an hour focus on something has been, we’ve still got another half an hour to go. What an interminable mess.
  • Alright, so Lex’s project *was* Doomsday, with his origin spliced a bit with Superboy’s. Let’s see how stupid this big dumb fight is.
  • Superman takes Doomsday into space, and the American government almost immediately nukes them, which almost *has* to be atonement on Snyder’s part for Superman never once trying to move the fight with Zod out of Metropolis. At least you can’t say Superman isn’t learning anymore.
SUPERMAN: Turn on your location and we’ll settle this. BATMAN: *turns on Bat-signal*

Let me take second to note how bad Doomsday looks. We can joke about the cave troll from Lord of the Rings, but he actually looks worse than that. (I assume he’s mad because he doesn’t have any genitalia.) I won’t pretend to be the sort of Luddite who thinks CGI is ruining film, but it certainly isn’t getting *better* anymore. Jurassic Park was twenty years ago. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman fighting Doomsday is a good starting point for a cinematic Justice League, but it just can’t get over the uncanny valley. Make it simpler.

  • Doomsday survives the explosion, and immediately starts mutating to adapt to the damage. So that’s at least an attempt to make a good Doomsday.
  • Superman, after being hit with a nuclear weapon, basks directly in the sun’s rays to recharge. Another nice nod to Dark Knight Rises.
  • Batman attempts to get the monster to chase him, and it does. Before it can kill him, Wonder Woman appears. Her theme is pretty cool. Everything to do with her in this movie is good.
  • “She with you?” “I thought she was with you.” This was dumb in the trailer, and it’s even dumber here when Batman has spent most of the movie directly researching Wonder Woman. Of course she’s with you, you idiot.
  • This is a big, dumb fight, but Wonder Woman rules.
Remember how good the Justice League show was? Me neither.

One of the biggest benefits the MCU has is Marvel’s insistence on using New York City, not Gotham or Metropolis. The latter are better for more fantastical works, but in something as realistic as a motion picture, there’s a sense of place that the big fight in, say, The Avengers had, that this movie will never have.

  • Clark manages to find the kryptonite spear and, while Wonder Woman holds the monster down with her lasso, impales Doomsday with it. Doomsday retaliates by stabbing him through the chest, and they seemingly kill each other. This is the first thing remotely resembling Superman Henry Cavill has done since the first act of Man of Steel.
  • Nice shot of Wonder Woman and Batman standing over Superman’s corpse, one of the few shots this film allows to breathe at all.
  • Having concurrent funerals for Clark Kent and Superman, but the former just Martha, Lois, Bruce and Diana and the latter an empty box given a full military funeral is a neat idea.
  • Also, having Bruce vow to create the Justice League to protect the Earth with Superman is a better justification than I expected this movie to make.
  • “We can rebuild. We can do better.” Again, weird that Batman is the character in this movie who most readily understands what Superman means.
  • Now Lex Luthor is bald because continuity.
  • So how does Luthor know about Darkseid? Also, if he already knows about Darkseid, WHY DID HE SPEND SO MUCH TIME TRYING TO KILL SUPERMAN? This fucking movie. Whenever it slows down enough to try and develop anything, it stops making any sense whatsoever.
  • I say “trying to kill Superman,” because of course he didn’t, because this is comics and death has no meaning.
This movie pretends that it rehabilitated Superman’s image, when all it really did was kill him.

What a strange movie. It’s split into a sequel to Man of Steel with Lex Luthor, Doomsday and a bunch of proselytizing about the meaning of God and Superman, an interesting Batman movie, and a series of advertisements for Justice League. It’s like the inverse of Man of Steel, which was likable, even good when it was slow, and an incomprehensible mess when it wasn’t. This movie only made sense when everything was exploding. I definitely hated things about it, but I’m also actually cautiously optimistic for a Justice League movie, provided Zack Snyder is kept far away from it.

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